1 Spring Onion (Scallion/Green Onion) – chopped, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
2 TBLS minced Ginger
6 Garlic cloves – minced
1 – 5 fresh Red Chilies (optional – see note 4), I used Bird’s Eye, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – chopped
3 – 10 Dried Red Chilies (see note 5), to taste – snipped into ½-inch pieces
80 grams / about ½ cup sliced canned Bamboo Shoots (or use fresh – see note 6)
Soak the dried mushrooms: Place the dried wood ear (or cloud ear) mushrooms in a bowl filled with water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. They will expand and become tender as they rehydrate. Once rehydrated, drain the mushrooms into a fine mesh strainer and rinse until the water runs clear. Pat-dry, then slice into thin strips.
Marinate the chicken: Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips. Then slice the strips into thin slivers no larger than ½-cm wide. Combine the chicken slivers, kosher salt, potato starch, Shao Xing rice wine, low sodium light soy sauce and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside.
Make the sauce: Combine the potato starch, white sugar, kosher salt, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, pure chili oil, and water in a small measuring cup (for easier pouring) or bowl. Mix well to combine, then set aside.
Prepare the fresh and dry ingredients: Chop the spring onion, ginger, garlic, fresh red chilies, and snip the dried red chilies into ½-inch pieces. Drain and rinse the canned bamboo shoots and slice into thin strips (if they’re not pre-sliced).
Blanch the mushrooms and bamboo shoots: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then drain into a fine mess strainer and run cold water on top to shock them and halt the cooking process.
For the Yu Xiang Chicken Stir-fry:
Cook the chicken: Heat ¼ cup peanut oil over high heat in a large wok. Once hot, add the marinated chicken and immediately spread the pieces out in the wok. Stir-fry for 40 seconds until 80% cooked. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer held above the wok to let the excess oil drip back in. Set the strainer above a clean bowl and remove all but 3 tablespoons of oil from the wok.
Sauté the aromatics: Heat the oil over high heat in the wok. Once hot, add the pickled red chilies and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the spring onion white and light green parts, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry for 20 seconds until fragrant.
Stir-fry the chilies: Add the fresh and dried red chilies and stir-fry briefly to combine, taking care to not let the dried red chilies burn.
Add the veggies: Add the sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots and toss for 20-30 seconds to combine.
Add the chicken and sauce: Give the sauce a quick stir with a spoon (the potato starch will have settled at the bottom). Add the partially cooked chicken and pour the sauce over everything in the wok. Stir-fry for 30-40 seconds until the sauce thickens and coats everything well.
Toss through spring onion greens: Toss through the spring onion dark green parts and switch off the heat.
To Serve: Transfer to a serving plate or dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice.
Kosher salt. Use half the amount if using iodized table salt.
Dried Cloud Ear/Wood Ear Mushrooms. This dish is traditionally made with a Chinese wood ear mushrooms. I used dried cloud ear mushrooms as they’re similar in appearance, taste, and texture. Half cup (about 60 grams) fresh wood or cloud ear mushrooms can be used instead if they are easily available to you. They’ll only need rinsing before slicing, not soaking.
Pickled Red Chilies. Traditionally, this dish is made with pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies(pao la jiao – 泡辣椒) in the Sichuan region. Since that’s not easily available outside of China, I used Lao Gan Ma Pickled Red Chilies Sauce. It’s a simple blend of chopped hot red chilies, water, salt, MSG, and potassium sorbate (a food preservative) and has a hot and tangy flavor profile. It’s commonly used as a topping condiment, but works incredibly well in stir-fries too. Look for it an Asian supermarket or purchase it online. Substitute with chopped Mexican or Thai pickled red chilies or sambal oelek in a pinch to yield a similar flavor. Another good substitute would be Sichuan Pixian Dou Ban Jiang (fermented chili bean paste) which is available at Asian supermarkets and online. They both have a similar spicy flavor. The difference is that dou ban jiang is made with fermented fava beans in addition to pickled peppers and has a deeper and stronger flavor. I used 3 tablespoons pickled red chilies sauce, but you can use 2 tablespoons for a slightly milder dish. If using Sichuan Pixian Dou Ban Jiang, I recommend using 1-2 tablespoons as it can be quite salty.
Fresh Bird’s Eye Red Chilies. Adjust to taste and use any other hot red chilies you like. Omit for a milder dish.
Dried Red Chilies. I used spicy Chinese Xiao Mi La dried red chilies. Any type of small Chinese or Thai dried red chilies can be used though. If using Thai Bird’s Eye dried red chilies, use less as they tend to be hotter than most Chinese dried red chilies.
Bamboo Shoots: This is the tender part of the bamboo plant and is a vegetable that’s commonly used in Sichuan and Asian cuisine. It’s available in fresh, dried, frozen, and canned form. Canned or fresh is preferred for this recipe. I used a small bag of pre-sliced canned bamboo shoots that I purchased from a Thai shop in a wet market. Look for it in an Asian supermarket, at a Thai grocery shop, or online. Leftovers can be stored in a sealed airtight jar filled with water in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Be sure to change the water daily though. If unavailable, substitute with peeled and julienned celtuce or celery.